Kevin Winge

Kevin Winge is a native of Minnesota. He lives in San Francisco, California where he is is the executive director of Project Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that provides nutritious meals to people living with disease. Read more about Kevin Winge.

Sun Country is More than a “Hometown Airline”

Posted by: Kevin Winge Updated: August 30, 2011 - 6:22 PM

Many years ago, in the middle of a particularly cold and snowy winter, I needed a quick get-away for a few days to Mexico. Sun Country Airlines had the best price, so I booked a charter flight for a long weekend on the beach.

When I arrived at the Humphrey Terminal, with sunscreen, books and t-shirts packed in my luggage, I walked into chaos. The lines were long and the airport employees crabby. Many of my co-travelers had clearly started their holiday at a bar and were feeling no pain by the time we checked in and boarded our flight. The flight from Minneapolis to Puerto Vallarta was more like last call at Hooter’s on a Saturday night than it was a flight on a reputable airline. When the flight finally landed in Mexico, after hours on a party bus in the sky, I vowed never to fly Sun Country again. My how things have changed. 

This summer, I needed to fly to the coast on relatively short notice. I checked with the airline behemoth that is based out of the Lindberg Terminal and learned that my three-hour flight would set me back over $1,200. Sun Country, on the other hand, would get me to the exact same location – arriving a little earlier in the day and departing much later at night – for nearly $600 less. I had vowed, all of those years ago, to never fly Sun Country again, but for $600, I figured I could put up with lines, disgruntled employees and unruly passengers. What I experienced at Sun Country, however, is one of the more pleasant travel experiences I have had in recent memory.
 
I remembered the Humphrey Terminal as small and dark and lacking amenities. The reality is it is incredibly convenient, spotlessly clean and has all of the coffee shops and newsstands one needs before boarding an early morning flight.
 
The long lines I had experienced on my earlier charter flight weren’t there. I breezed through security and actually enjoyed it. Unlike other airports, the TSA workers didn’t just stare at my identification, and then at me, before scribbling something illegible on my ticket, they engaged in friendly conversation.
 
The gate agent was pleasant and efficient as were the flight attendants on the plane. Passengers were quickly seated and the flight departed on time. Much to my surprise, a breakfast sandwich and coffee were served – for free – on the morning flight. On my return flight, dinner consisted of a hot dog and a bag of Barrel O’ Fun potato chips – again for free. Granted, you pay for luggage and an aisle seat and even for a blanket and pillow on Sun Country, but how nice to receive a snack rather than being nickeled and dimed by the airline industry for everything.
 
When I made my reservation on Sun Country I assumed this would be a one-off experience and I would be back to traveling on the behemoth on my very next trip. Instead, I registered for Ufly Rewards – Sun Country’s frequent flyer program – and I plan on spending much more time at the Humphrey Terminal in the future. It’s nice having a "Hometown Airline,” but it’s especially nice having one that offers good prices and an exceptional experience. That behemoth at the Lindberg Terminal could learn a few things from Sun Country.

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